Every few weeks I write the newsletter for our church, and I have decided to start cross-posting them here! Enjoy!
I am a Sesame Street kid. I grew up with Gordon and Maria, learning to count to 10 in Spanish through song and how to dance myself to sleep with Ernie. While watching the Christmas Eve on Sesame Street episode, I remember longing for the day that I too could be grown up enough to buy my friend a cigar box for his paperclip collection, or a soap dish for his rubber ducky. Adulthood appeared simple, clean, and peaceful. I couldn’t wait.
The adults around me in school and at church all looked like they had it together, too. My Catholic aunts and uncles were so tight knit and did everything together. I grew up with my cousins by my side for everything, and with a million adults to help me and care for me. In our Foursquare church where my parents were highly involved, there were pastors and Sunday School teachers who all looked the part of wise, smart, and successful. And my friends’ parents? Fantastic! Adulthood, I thought, looked like a cakewalk.
It’s not that I was sold a bill of goods…though I was. We all were! In so many ways I don’t think any of us reached adulthood thinking “I was totally prepared for this!”. But I learned how to do the things I didn’t learn in school, like how to budget my money and my time. How to apply for and keep a job. How to apply for financial aid and file taxes. That stuff wasn’t the hard part. The issue that still causes me hang-ups, is that I never got to see the full emotional picture of adulthood. The grownups in my life kept their anxieties, alcoholism, infidelities, and trauma out of my field of vision. As a parent I understand that! We want to protect our children’s innocence while their brains are developing, and while they are trying to learn who they are in this world. I place no blame on the way I was raised as a child. But as a teen, and a young adult, I am now recognizing all the places that I could have been let in a little more. I am realizing how many times I was lied to as a teen instead of being given the opportunity to see the adults in my life in their full humanity.
I have thought about this a lot, both as my own kids are getting older, and as I find myself in a healthy church community maybe for the first time ever. Actually, definitely for the first time ever. Because for the first time ever, I am feeling much more at ease just being myself in my communities. But how much is too much? How much do I let my kids, or my students and their families, or my spiritual direction clients see me struggle with anxiety? How much do I allow the people I lead to hear me mumble esoterically about my waffling grasp on theology, and the intersection of spirituality and sexuality, and my ever-increasing depression over the state of this country? There comes a point where we really want our elders to have it together and to point us northward with gumption! But there also comes a point where we need to see those people in their brokenness.
I’m going to say something cheesy and churchy, but bear with me. We need to see the leaders, teachers and elders in our lives in at least a small piece of their mess, because it is how we learn the true nature of God. Not because God needs us to be cheerleaders for a 12 step program or walking infomercials for the importance of Bible study. Not because God magically fixes it. Fixes me. Fixes us. That’s not it. It’s simply because God made me, trusts me, and thinks I can be a good parent, a loving teacher, and an empathetic and accepting spiritual director even while I am a serious head case. And I think to some degree, the people in my life need to see that. We all need to see the glorious dichotomy of “healthy headcase” embodied, to the point that we realize the words healthy and headcase are not a dichotomy at all. They are just two words out of millions to describe the perfect complexities that we are as humans. For far too long, the examples we have been given are phony bull crap. Had I known at 18 that my mom had an abortion before she married my dad, I might have given myself more grace for simply being a teenage girl with a sex drive. Because I have never blamed my mom for that, only that I had to learn about it from someone else. Had my dad dealt with his mental health issues with honesty, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so much shame over anxiety. I would so much rather see my dad on meds or in therapy than watch him try and claim God’s healing while he musters through it alone. I mean come on! Do we not all have anxiety? And maybe now, as a grown woman with degrees and kids and a business and a really healthy marriage I wouldn’t still be beating myself up over not cleaning my house enough, or seeing my in-laws more, or donating more of my resources. Because the fact of the matter is, I’m doing a pretty good job of being an adult human in this seriously sad and wonderful world. My relationship with God is full of beauty and acceptance and good stuff. And I’m a serious mess.
I don’t know exactly what this looks like, but I do know my mission in this season is to be loud in my promotion of inclusive spaces. I want everyone to be able to experience God’s full and unmitigated love through the arms of community like we do at Cascade. And my prayer, is that Spirit will move in such a way that the humble and the vulnerable would be the loudest voices we hear in a world that desperately wants to be loved in her brokenness.